Death Is No Excuse

Planning for Death, Disability, Divorce and Other Disasters

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Pub Date 2 Nov 2021 | Archive Date 30 Sep 2024


What do Abraham Lincoln, Pablo Picasso, Aretha Franklin and Howard Hughes all have in common? They died without wills, left messy estates and tormented their surviving families who had to lawyer up and fight through the resulting nightmares for years.
Whether the reasons for this are death denial, penny-pinching or just too busy to be bothered, the majority of Americans will die in exactly the same predicament—no wills, no planning and nobody lined up to help their surviving families get what's coming to them.
"Death Is No Excuse" is an insightful roadmap through the legal potholes of unplanned death and disability, offered by a veteran attorney who's handled the worst of these cases for over forty years. It's a plain-spoken, surprisingly entertaining guide to everything you need to know about planning for death or disability, as well as other calamities that can occur along the way, be they divorce, avoidable tax burdens or getting ripped off as you toddle into old age.
Told in twenty-three brisk chapters, each punctuated with a case history of life gone off the rails when people ignore the insights this book offers, "Death Is No Excuse" tells you how to avoid the pitfalls of un-planned death and disability.

What do Abraham Lincoln, Pablo Picasso, Aretha Franklin and Howard Hughes all have in common? They died without wills, left messy estates and tormented their surviving families who had to lawyer up...

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ISBN 9781098392741
PRICE US$16.95 (USD)

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Average rating from 18 members

Featured Reviews

This is a book that should be read many times by anyone old enough to consider their future death. It's not enough to tell a few people what you want to happen to you and your effects upon your death, you need to put it in writing. David Baker gives some clear guidance on options and why each choice is different for you and your family. If you love your family, buy this book, read it and share it with everyone in your circle.

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I never thought that I would say this but the funniest book I read this month was Death is No Excuse, a book about wills, trusts, and guardianships.

It is amazing how fast distributing your assets after death can go horribly, and hilariously, wrong. Each chapter of the book ends with a parable of what can go wrong if you don’t follow the author’s guidance. The author is a probate lawyer. His advice is almost invariably to see an attorney. It is a penny-wise, pound-foolish type of lesson. Don’t try to save a few thousand dollars and have your entire estate get eaten up by lawyer fees after your death when at least one person contests your will.

I am a certified public accountant, who really thought I knew a lot about estate planning. However, this book introduced many pitfalls I didn’t know existed. Even if you put a standard no contest clause in your will, your aggrieved relatives can sue each other civilly for the tort of Intentional Interference with Testamentary Expectancy. So, instead of suing your estate for undue influence, they are suing each other with no risk of losing whatever small amount your will gifted them originally.

Another unusual tip is that you should add a “Gift-Over” or Doomsday clause in your will. In case everyone named in your will predeceases you, you name a final backstop, possibly a charity, to get your estate. Better a charity than the government, am I right?

The best tip that I found in the book is never move to New Hampshire if anyone in your life is looking to achieve “inheritance by baseball bat”. New Hampshire is the only state without a slayer law that prevents a killer from inheriting or otherwise benefiting from his or her victim’s death. And the cause doesn’t have to be as dramatic as a 1940s noir. Even if your intent wasn’t to kill but you accidentally killed the deceased while doing something else bad, you can still be disinherited. Or disallowed from their pension’s spousal benefits. Or whatever, you get the idea.

If you are thinking about getting your affairs in order, there is no funnier and less sleep-inducing way to learn more about the surprisingly complex process than reading Death Is No Excuse. You will find yourself chuckling at the mishaps of others while preventing the same fate from befalling your estate. 5 stars.

Thanks to Book Baby and NetGalley for a digital review copy of the book.

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This is a fabulous reference book - and a fascinating and hilarious (although also cringe-inducing) collection of pitfalls associated with the distribution of assets after death. Through a series of lessons, anecdotes, and helpful hints, Baker covers all the major issues of property and control associated with death, dying, and probate. In a no-nonsense style, he addresses misconceptions and concerns as well as offers insight and comfort with the procedural issues at the end of life. It's a fantastic place to start - and engaging and entertaining to boot!

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This is a great, short, easy-to-understand guide on how to take care of end-of-life matters. Baker starts by explaining why it's important to take care of these matters while you can instead of allowing the State to make those important decisions for you. The advice here is practical, and covers everything from guardianships to making a will to choosing an attorney. Everyone should read a book like this, probably more than once, to make sure that their affairs are taken care of in the best way possible. Even if you don't have heirs, you don't want to be leaving your estate to the East German secret police! Thanks to NetGalley for letting me read this.

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I saw an ad for this book in the NYT's Book Review and thought it looked interesting. It's an important subject, written by a probate lawyer with a little humor thrown in so you don't fall asleep. It got me thinking about better planning my estate and getting my parents to talk about theirs. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

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